State health officials on Sunday reported 16 additional confirmed COVID-19 deaths in Minnesota, bringing the overall death toll to 1,186.
Sunday’s report from the state health department came soon after the family of St. Paul school board chair Marny Xiong announced that she had died Sunday morning of COVID-19, after a monthlong battle with the disease. She was 31.
Minnesota saw another 388 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Sunday’s report, bringing the overall total to 27,886 — with nearly 3,000 of those cases among health-care workers.
The numbers released each morning by state health officials reflect the data as it stood at 4 p.m. the previous day.
The number of completed tests exceeded 10,000 for the fourth consecutive day, while the numbers of people hospitalized and in ICUs continued to fall. Sunday’s report showed 450 people hospitalized with COVID-19 and 199 of them in ICUs — the first time that number has dropped below 200 since May 13.
Thirteen of the 16 deaths reported Sunday were people who had been living in long-term care facilities. Nearly 23,000 people who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Minnesota have recovered to the point where they no longer need to be isolated.
Sunday’s report comes after Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz on Friday announced a further loosening of restrictions on businesses and other aspects of society during the coronavirus pandemic, beginning next week.
Among the changes:
Indoor restaurant and bar service and personal services can open at 50 percent capacity with a 250-person limit
Places of worship can also hold services at 50 percent capacity with a 250-person limit
Entertainment venues can open 25 percent capacity with a 250-person limit
Personal care services, including salons, barbershops and tattoo parlors, can work indoors at 50 percent capacity
Gyms, yoga studio and fitness centers can reopen 25 percent capacity with a 250-person limit
The changes are set to take effect on Wednesday.
But officials continued their plea to Minnesotans to continue staying 6 feet apart, wear masks and stay home if you feel ill.
“We are not going back to normal,” cautioned Steve Grove, commissioner of employment and economic development as he praised businesses for the sacrifices they’ve made in the COVID-19 era. “We’re continuing to ask for personal responsibility in the next phase.”
State Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm indicated the recent patterns of cases and hospitalizations in Minnesota are showing “a plateau with small waves within in,” calling it an “encouragingly stable” situation.
“Statewide, we're in good shape for critical care capacity,” she added.
She cautioned, though, that the protests over George Floyd’s killing may have boosted the disease spread. It will take a few weeks to find out. But she expressed confidence that the state was positioned to handle the pandemic without it overwhelming the case system.
Meatpacking hot spots remain
Many of the outbreaks outside the Twin Cities metro area are focused around meatpacking plants. Officials have intensified testing in those hot spots, uncovering more infections.
In southwestern Minnesota’s Nobles County, where an outbreak hit Worthington’s massive JBS pork plant, about 1 in 15 people have tested positive for COVID-19. In mid-April, there were just a handful of cases. By Friday, there were 1,577 confirmed cases, although the numbers are rising at a much slower rate than in previous weeks.
The JBS plant shut on April 20 but has since partially reopened with expanded hygiene and health monitoring measures.
Similar problems have been reported in Stearns County, where COVID-19 cases tied to two packing plants — Pilgrim’s Pride poultry plant in Cold Spring and Jennie-O Turkey in Melrose — skyrocketed in May.
An undisclosed number of workers at both plants have tested positive for the virus. There were about 55 confirmed cases in Stearns County in early May. By Friday, confirmed cases were at 2,056 with 14 deaths.
Kandiyohi County in west-central Minnesota is also seeing cases continue to climb more than a month after officials with the Jennie-O turkey processing plant there said some employees had tested positive for the coronavirus. The county had confirmed three COVID-19 cases then.
On Friday, the Health Department reported 514 people have now tested positive in the county.
While the counts in those counties are high relative to their population, officials say the growth in new cases in those areas appears to be stabilizing.
Mower County in southern Minnesota, another county with a large meatpacking presence, is becoming a hot spot.
Mower County has jumped the past few weeks, reporting a total of 446 positive COVID-19 cases now with two deaths. The Rochester, Minn., Post-Bulletin reports two meat plants in Austin, Minn., are seeing COVID-19 cases rise rapidly.
Developments from around the state
Beware of contact-tracing scams, MN officials warn
The state is warning Minnesotans to be on alert for text scams related to contact tracing of COVID-19.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, scammers are targeting people via text, saying that someone they know has tested positive for coronavirus and that they should click on a link for more information.
Some texts ask people to download software on to their phone, while others seek information like Social Security numbers and banking information.
Contact tracing is the practice of figuring out who someone who has tested positive for coronavirus has been in contact with. It's a strategy meant to mitigate the spread of the virus.
The state is encouraging people who get these texts to report them to the FBI.
— Catharine Richert | MPR News
U of M study: Hydroxychloroquine can’t prevent coronavirus infection
A new University of Minnesota study shows hydroxychloroquine is not able to prevent the development of COVID-19 better than a placebo.
The results of the first randomized clinical trial of the drug will be published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Researchers also found that 40 percent of the trial participants taking hydroxychloroquine developed nonserious side effects like nausea and diarrhea.
However, the trial found no cardiac complications from taking the drug, which is typically used for lupus.
The trial included 821 people in the United States and in Canada who had been exposed to someone with the virus, either members of their household or in their work as a health care worker or first responder.
President Donald Trump has touted the drug as a treatment for coronavirus, despite warnings from medical professionals that there was no research to back up his claims.
— Catharine Richert | MPR News
COVID-19 in Minnesota
Data in these graphs are based off Minnesota Department of Health cumulative totals released at 11 a.m. daily. You can find more detailed statistics on COVID-19 at the Health Department website.
The coronavirus is transmitted through respiratory droplets, coughs and sneezes, similar to the way the flu can spread.
Government and medical leaders are urging people to wash their hands frequently and well, refrain from touching their faces, cover their coughs, disinfect surfaces and avoid large crowds, all in an effort to curb the virus’ rapid spread.